The buzz in health care these days is about health and wellness, making connections between the multiple factors that contribute to wellness, and focusing on how our communities can help keep people healthy. Examples include:
- Access to healthy food in communities and in schools; making sure there are grocery stores or supermarkets that are accessible to the community.
- Increasing availability of nutritious food – growing food locally, supporting community gardens and farmers’ markets. Making it possible to pay for food at farmers’ markets with SNAP coupons. (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
- Physical activity – access to recreational activities, availability of outdoor parks and sporting areas, existence of sidewalks, clearing snow from those sidewalks.
- Emotional and social well-being, including mental health; reading to children to support early childhood literacy.
Live Well Watertown (LWW) is a coalition formed by a CHNA grant (community health network area) to support community-based health activities. LWW is working on town policies on food, nutrition and physical activity. LWW conducted a Community Forum in March 2015 which brought together 22 health-related organizations.
The purpose of the forum was to generate partnerships and collaborative projects, and to strengthen the ties between and among these groups, including:
- Organized group fitness activities: The town’s Recreation Dept. which hosted a show-shoeing event. Bike/Ped (Pedestrian) committee. People working on an ordinance requiring snow removal to enable safer walking.
- Social and emotional well-being: Autism Family support group. Youth Coalition.
- Food and healthy eating: Farmers’ Market: Providing healthy snacks for students at afternoon sporting events. Community Gardens. A church that teaches middle schoolers gardening skills, and then engages them to help neighbors who need help creating a garden.
- Healthy living initiatives: Boys and Girls Club.
- Intergenerational projects focused on well-being: Caregiver support group. “Neighbors helping neighbors”.
We designed the event to allow for maximum time for people to meet each other, to learn about the 22 organizations, and to discuss their interests and projects in small groups. The outcomes included next steps from each breakout group, and hopefully coordination of people working together on these projects. People expressed appreciation for the forum and the opportunity to learn about all of the projects going on around town. The key takeaway is that people want to meet more frequently, to talk with their neighbors and group members, and to work collaboratively to achieve collective impact to improve their communities.